Rant for the week: ISPs and Pay-TV providers!

angry man- smaller
**Warning – rant follows**

I apologize in advance to all those readers residing outside Australia. This *rant” is specific to the Australian industries… although, I’m sure most of you will have similar stories to tell:

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):

ISPHere in the land of Oz, our telephone system is owned and run by one huge telecommunications company, Telstra; exchanges, cabling, you name it, if its to do with telephony, it’s controlled by Telstra. Telstra was originally government owned and run but has been completely privatized since 2006. Unfortunately, the good ole red tape, so often associated with government enterprise, remains rampant to this day. Changing ISPs can, and does, take up to 3 or 4 days… at times even longer. I confess to knowing very little about how all this all works but, I am guessing that changing ISPs would merely involve an exercise in button pressing… maybe a few minor software adjustments too. Surely nothing which should take such an inordinate amount of time. When you query this with your new ISP they will invariably answer with just one word… Telstra!

Recently, I’ve been looking at changing my ISP and was shocked to find that three previously independently operated services have now been gobbled up by another, known as iiNet. So, our choices have been effectively reduced from 8 viable options to just 4 (one of which is Telstra itself, so just 3 in reality). This has tended to create a non-competitive environment with very little variation between the ranges of plans on offer…  and that brings me to the main crux of this particular rant.

Most plans here are based around some sort of data limit, except for the more expensive ‘unlimited’ plans of course. Once upon a time, all the ISPs, except one, counted only downloaded data. Now, they all, bar none, count data in both directions, down and up. All these plans also involve a penalty for exceeding the set data limit, either by way of exorbitant surcharges or a huge reduction in connection speed (known as ‘shaping’). Now, I can accept and live with the former… after all, down or up, both involve bandwidth. But the latter has me utterly perplexed… here’s why.

If I am to be penalized for consuming more than my monthly allowance, why is there no converse reward for consuming less… why is any unused portion not credited and carried over? For example; my current monthly data limit is 60GB. Say in January I use 45GB, why is the unused 15GB not carried over and added to my starting allowance for February, and so on. I could happily accept the penalties for over-use if I were being equally rewarded for under-use. Is it just me or does this reek of one-way traffic (if you’ll pardon the pun). And I seriously doubt that any ISPs will stray from the common path anytime in the near future… does the word ‘collusion’ ring any bells!

I’m still considering my options by the way, but at the moment it looks like I might end up going with iiNet.

Pay-TV Providers:

Pay-TVPay-TV first kicked off here in the mid 1990s with two providers; Foxtel servicing the bigger cities, and Austar servicing smaller and more remote populations via satellite. Just recently (May, 2012), Austar was acquired by Foxtel, so we went from only two Pay-TV providers to just one… and I thought two was bad enough – talk about your monopoly! To add even more salt to the wound, guess who owns 50% of Foxtel… yep, Telstra!

I’ve been an Austar subscriber since its inception. In those early days there were very few ads and the monthly subscription was quite reasonable. Today, the number of subscribers is in the hundreds of thousands (if not millions), advertizing has exploded to the point where it rivals free-to-air TV, and the monthly subscription has more than trebled. Is it just me or does that not seem totally incongruous? Foxtel’s revenue stream has grown massively over the years, compliments of huge increases in the subscriber base and advertising content, yet the price to the home consumer has more than trebled? Even allowing for inflation (or increases in CPI), shouldn’t it be getting cheaper? Or at least maintaining the status quo, certainly nowhere near as expensive as it has now become.

I was always under the impression that the huge advantage of Pay-TV is that a subscription based service would not need to rely so heavily on advertising as a source of revenue… how wrong was I. As for ‘quality’ of content; well, if… repeating shows a squillion times over, swapping the very same shows around between channels and then repeating them all over again, and riddling them all with incessant ad breaks…  can be considered quality – then yes, there is lots of quality.

I cut back my Pay-TV service dramatically about 12 months ago, retaining only the basic package plus sports channels. This resulted in a price drop from around $124.00 per month to just over $60.00 per month… money well saved. If it wasn’t for the live sports I would scrap it altogether. I can watch as many ads on free-to-air as I want, without having to pay for the privilege.

**End rant**

As I said in the preamble; even though these issues may not exactly apply in your country, I’m sure there will be similar annoyances/frustrations involved. Let us know by submitting a comment.

About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

There are 17 comments

Comments are closed.